Sunday, November 27, 2005

Two Internal BP Report Highly Critical of Company's Safety Practices

Government agencies and industry always like to announce unpopular news on Friday afternoon so that it will be buried in the weekend papers. Even better for releasing unpleasant news than a typical Friday is the day before a national holiday, which the news media calls "Take Out the Trash Day."

BP chose to take out its trash on the day before Thanksgiving, releasing the "Stanley Report," and audit of BP safety procedures conducted by former OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Stanley, as well as the Telos Report, survey of employees conducted two months before the March 23 explosion. BP had witheld the two reports since June as "confidential." They were released only after the Houston Chronicle and the Galveston County Daily News sought a court order to release them on the grounds of public safety.

According to the Chronicle, a close inspection of hundreds of comments in the Telos survey
shows a consistent pattern of worker concern about safety at the plant.

Many were highly critical of not only the priority that output was given over safety, but also the condition of the refinery.

"Employees often feel pressured to bend the safety rules, but often it is just the consequence of how we push production," one wrote.

Added another: "Fixing something without having a shutdown is what gets rewarded; we get rewarded to keep the unit running."

Many workers said they often witnessed unsafe acts or conditions.

"Our deferred maintenance over the years is now hurting us," one worker wrote when asked about workplace conditions. "Our processes have now changed. We now have much higher corrosion."

Many others reported thinning pipes, a condition that can lead to fires and explosions.

"The pipe thinning issue is my biggest worry," one worker wrote. "I am not sure we know the extent of it or the nature of the risk."

Several others agreed. "Pipe thinning worries me the most," another wrote. "Its failure could be catastrophic with little warning."

And yet another wrote: "The potential for major hazards is unacceptably high. We need to look with metallurgists and do a complete assessment of this site."
The Stanley Report, meanwhile, criticized BP management
for allowing workers and mid-level managers and supervisors to get away with not following proper procedures and safety protocols within the refinery.

That failure, according to the report resulted in “a tolerance for noncompliance with those processes and procedures.”

The audit team also found that BP management failed to learn from previous incidents, audits and peer reviews. That led to “complacency towards serious process safety risks, driven by a lack of awareness of potential consequences,” the report reads. “The lack of awareness of risk is also reflected in day-to-day operational activity.”

Despite the March 23 explosions, the audit also found that supervisors and employees within the refinery still do not consistently follow Control of Work processes. Control of Work is the method of how procedures within the various units are supposed to be handled. But even those methods were questioned.

“The existing Control of Work process does not provide adequate assurance that risks are being effectively managed,” the report states.

The audit also found workplace conditions within the refinery to be below par. It noted that areas of the refinery did not appear to be well maintained and the work environment in some control rooms were inadequate to allow operators to have a full focus on unit control.
The Galveston Daily News has made both reports available here.

More BP stories here.